PUBLISHED: 5:59 PM on Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Playing the hand you're dealt
Jim Farrington likes his odds at winning the World Series of Poker
Editor's note: At deadline time Jim Farrington was still playing in event #2 of the WSOP Tournament. An online update will be posted as we get word of Jim's progress in the tournament.

LAS VEGAS - Jim Farrington sits in the Rio Hotel & Casino with a stack of $10,000 dollars in tournament chips in front of him on a Saturday night in Vegas.

Farrington, who started the tournament with $3,000 in chips, has been playing poker for 12 hours with only a few breaks in between. The field of 2,000 players he was with was narrowed to only 200. On Sunday, another group of 2,000 players will compete with 200 more from that group moving on to the finals.

Farrington, of Juneau, has done well in his first weekend of tournament competition playing in the 2008 World Series of Poker (WSOP) held in Las Vegas Nevada. Many pro poker players have already been knocked out of the tournament. Farrington paid $1500 dollars to play against 4,000 players in event #2 of the tournament. First prize for the event is estimated to be $750,000 dollars and the coveted WSOP Champion bracelet.

Farrington had a couple of good hands. He got a 7-3 dealt which turned into a full house and won him a few thousand dollars in chips. He caught a straight and went all in, taking another nice size pot by forcing everyone else to fold. The hardest decision of the tournament, however, was when he chose to fold a pair of kings instead of risking his tournament life by going all-in.

photo courtesy of Jim Farrington
  Farrington waits his turn to bet during event #2 of the World Series of Poker held in Las Vegas last weekend.
This is Farrington's fourth year playing in the WSOP tournament. He's relying on past experience, his skill - and some assistance from Lady Luck - to continue hanging with the pro players.

"You can sit down and play with some of the top pros in the world. You can't do that in any other sporting event," he said. "The First year I ever went down I had four of the top pros at my first table."

Farrington found himself playing at a table with pro players Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Marcel Luske (European player famous for wearing upside down glasses), Cindy Violet, and Mike Sexton. Ferguson, who won the main event in 2000, has five WSOP bracelets and has won $4.6 million dollars playing in WSOP and pro circuit events over his career.

The 39th annual 2008 World Series of Poker is a series of 55 separate tournament events, lasting 47 days, from May 30 to July 16 in Las Vegas. Anyone can buy-in to play in the events as long as they can pay the entry fee and pre-register two weeks in advance.

Buy-in fees range from $1500 to $10,000 dollars. Texas Hold'em is the main game played at the World Series, but other variations of poker are played during the 2008 WSOP series.

The main event of the tournament, starting July 3, could have as many as 15,000 players depending on how many people are willing to pay the $10,000 buy-in fee. The last nine players from the main event will play in the final table on November 9, 2008 - having earned a spot as part of the "November Nine." Part of the reason for the four month delay is to give players time to study their opponent, develop a strategy and obtain sponsors. The final table action will be nationally televised on ESPN.

Last year, Farrington paid $1500 to enter an event with 2,998 players, which was the largest field of players ever assembled for a non-main event. He just missed finishing in the money.

"I finished in the top 300 last year out of 3,000 people," he said. "I was probably within 20 spots of cashing. I played for 14 hours that day to get that far."

Farrington went "all-in" with an Ace-Jack suited after running low on chips while the blinds were going up. Two people called him and he had the best two cards, but he lost on the river card to a pair of kings. Despite busting out of the WSOP event, Farrington managed to win more then he lost at the poker tables by playing in cash games in Vegas.

Last year he went to Vegas six times and won enough money playing poker to cover his expenses each time he went. Farrington estimated he will play in 20 cash games while he is in Las Vegas this weekend.

Farrington is an accountant for the state of Alaska, and he uses his math ability to his advantage. Farrington said he figures out the odds in his head and make decisions based partly on those calculations.

"I have a degree in Math so I study and play the odds as much as I play the person," he said.

Besides crunching numbers, Farrington also has a strategy for the big tournaments he plays in.

"I like to play really tight at the beginning and not get involved in any big pots early," he said. "When the blinds are really low I want to try to keep things small and not get involved in a lot of hands."

The blinds are minimum dollar bets that continue to go to higher amounts as the game progresses, which forces players to play more aggressively or risk losing their chips.

Farrington, who doesn't drink alcohol while he plays, said the most important skill for a poker player is being able to read other players.

"I'll never look at my cards until it's my turn to act," he said.

Instead, he looks at other players, trying to read them for a tell sign. And win or lose, he always enjoys the adrenaline rush of playing in a tournament.

"I love the competition side of it."